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20 Easy ways you can boost your IELTS vocabulary fast

20 Easy ways you can boost your IELTS vocabulary fast
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Improving your IELTS vocabulary is not something that should make you pull your hair or roll across both ends of your bed seven times every night.

In fact, if anything should make you worry, it should be how not to outshine everyone else who took the test with you (I bet you would like that one).

It comes down to knowing what you should do and getting a plan in place that helps you do what you already know.

I’ll tell you how in a short while.

You see, every year, the board administering IELTS (International English Language Testing System… if you don’t know what it means yet) – the British Council, IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment opens its doors to more than 5,000,000 test-takers from more than 140 countries.

Out of that number, about 30% cut and get a pass. The rest of that number see scores that make them want to pull their hair.

But have you ever asked why it is so? Why even people with good English backgrounds take the test and get a poor band score like 5 or 6.5?

Some say it is a mindset thing. Others say it is poor preparation, another group believes it is just difficult, and the last group believes the system is rigged.

Those reasons won’t make us pass any more than we should if we don’t do the right things like getting our English structures right.

Today, we will explore IELTS. You will discover how to improve your vocabulary – the powerful needle that impacts your IELTS score.

You will also get nuggets on how to better prepare for your IELTS score.

Let’s get started.


When the proficiency tests were introduced in 1989, nobody presumed it would be a nightmare for some non-native English Speakers. It promised a fair to all and widely available standard for measuring the English excellence of prospective students or professionals.

Every IELTS test measures test takers English “goodness” by splitting questions into four categories:

  •       Listening
  •       Speaking
  •       Reading
  •       Writing

Today, IELTS is the symbol of English Proficiency (if you are not a native speaker). Anyone in need of work or academic access in regions of the world where English is the official language must have a decent IELTS score to be considered ready.

And if you are reading this, you likely fall into one of the two categories: the student or the professional.

So, how can you make your vocabulary stunningly great before the test day?

Within the next 20 bullet points, I outline nuggets to help you boost your English vocabulary. I can only promise to show you what has worked before and hope you follow through with keeping them.

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Nearly everyone who applied these rules found a way to come out with a decent IELTS score.

1. Get a learners dictionary

A good example is the Longman Learners Dictionary. You can find it online

Dictionaries like Longman use simply to understand English making new words easy to grasp and understand.

What you should do is: take note of definitions and see examples where a word is used. Find similar examples from other texts, and make notes.

2. Get a notepad (or notebook)

You want to write down new words, new definitions, new sentences, new ways to structure your phrases, and test new terms across different paragraphs – so you need a notebook.

You could split the pages into different sections to make finding your old discoveries a walk in the park (no pun intended…. if you don’t know what that means, look it up, and take notes!)

3. Spelling patterns will save you

It would help if you learned how to spell words correctly, then understand their spellings in different forms.

For example;

Contribute is the word, contribution is the noun, contributed is the past action of a subject (verb). Contribute can also be the verb in sentences like I will contribute. Another verb form for the word is “contributing.” When you see a new word, what you should do is try to understand the word in all its forms or grammatical classes, make sentences with them, and watch as they stick to your brain like a well made chewing gum.

4. Know your word sounds like the back of your hand

Words like conduct, digest, insult, etc., will have different meanings based on the context used. This is very important, especially in the listening section of the test.

The trick is to get the context where a word is used.

For example, you could hear a sentence like:

I will conduct a proper check on those assessments. AND

You must conduct yourself to be respected in our organization. The context of the sentences gives you an idea of the forms in which the words are used. So, learn to listen to context. Also, try finding similar words and exercising your writing around them.

5. Abbreviations matter 

In the reading section of your test, you will likely come across abbreviations (abbr).

As you prepare, take notes of abbreviated forms of different words, and apply them to your sentence essay constructions. It becomes easy to get a hold of when you begin doing them yourself.

6. Pronunciations could be your friend (or your nightmare)

In your dictionary, you will find phonetic representations of words (e.g.,/ ‘ma:kit/ for “car”). You will also notice an indication for the stressed sections of words ([ ‘ ] before the word part). Those changes give you an idea of what a word sounds like. A good dictionary would show pronunciations for different forms of the word.

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7. For every word you learn, understand its register

Does your word have a slang form? Is there a formal type or an old usage (your dictionary would say archaic)?

You should have a register for each word’ style stand and take notes.

8. Do you have a brother or sister?

Don’t worry. I’m not trying to pry into your family history.

Find out if your new word has a synonym. Are there words that have the same meanings and can be used in their place? What about similar pronunciations.

9. How about word enemies (antonyms)?

Yes, words fight each other over very little things like letters. The problem is, they never get tired. Anyway, that shouldn’t be a bother.

Just like you did in nugget number eight, find out if your word has a direct opposite.

Look up examples where the different words are used, build your sentences.

Are there pronunciations similar to it but with a different meaning (homophones, e.g., ate, eight)? Find out and take more notes.

10. Prefixes are friends

Imagine a word like appear had no prefix? Where would we disappear to?

Here’s a quick list of common English prefixes I found for you (of course, you should thank me later).  Learn the words and put your mind to good use.

11. Do you have a backpack of vocabulary?

My friend’s son has a backpack (or a school bag depending on where you are from). He puts all his books, pencils, and toys inside. And whenever he needs anyone of his cool things, he knows where to find them.

Every day, try to discover at least ten new words. Understand their usage, origin, style, form, etc., and make sentences with them.

12. ake tests

Some websites provide free mock IELTS tests you can try. An example is this one or this by the British council.

A better way would be to get someone to test you. A good teacher is always a great choice.

13. Scared of complex words? Try Mnemonics

Mnemonics are your friend. Link confusing words to real-life objects or stories.

Ex: “complEment has an E in the middle, complIment, has an I, and they mean different things.” Since I need to appreciate people, “I” sounds like a better choice for “complIment! – which means to give praise or show admiration.” 

Now you get it.

14. Write as though your existence depends on it

The best way to use the new words you’ve learned and see how well you’ve comprehended the learning is to do the work.

Get your hands in the mud (that’s an expression) and see how well you can develop written pieces around specific ideas you like.

Let’s say you are a foodie; you could try to write about the Korean Kimchi meal. Use your new words, and tie them correctly with the idea you are trying to present.

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15. Read, your score depends a lot on it

Your IELTS tests measure how much you understand an idea in an English text.

What do you think the writer is saying? Do you agree with their points? etc.

The best way to prepare yourself is to read more and more books, articles, and papers.

16. I love my thesaurus!

You can get a thesaurus online, download an app, or get something handy from a bookstore or library.

The tool will help you discover new words you can use to spice your texts and writings. Nothing makes a text more boring than seeing a word like difficult too many times.

It makes reading difficult. And such difficult exercises are too difficult for a mind to comprehend because they are difficult.

You get the point.

17. Play word games 

“So, because I am studying for an exam, I shouldn’t play a game?” he asked.

No, in fact, I think you should.”, the teacher replied.

Find interactive word games and play them. A word puzzle is a handy tool sometimes (Beli the puppy hates them, though).

18. Create a mental picture of words

People say pictures tell a thousand stories. I don’t know how  true that is, but here’s what I can tell you: when you have problems understanding a word like a volcano, it’s easier to remember when you think of a black pot with a narrow opening spilling red hot blood of a vile beast.

See, you will never forget about a volcano anymore. Put your words in the picture mode and see how they become unforgettable.

19. Create a plan of study

You see, this nugget will make all your study profitable. Make a plan for what you want to study per day. Remove distractions and get in your A-game.

Make every minute count with a timer (you can use a Pomodoro app). With a good study plan, you can easily review your previous notes and make things stick right where they are in your brain.

When you plan every one of your studies beforehand, you will easily measure your progress and know where you must put more focus.

20. Find a course

Look, structured material is always your best option for fast learning. IELTS can get tricky when you stubbornly want to go on your own without much guidance – especially if you’ve never tried it before.

A course tells you what to expect. How prepared must you be? What you must study, and what you shouldn’t break a sweat for.

So, get a course if you can, and max its benefits.

There you go! Twenty easy and fast methods to improve your IELTS vocabulary. One last thing I can tell you is this: go with the mindset of a winner. Prepare with all you got, and have a mind that says, “no matter what IELTS throws, you are going to give the winning blow.” 

Best Wishes!

Penprofile Team

Penprofile Team

Read. Connect. Write. Together, we discuss ideas to solve contemporary problems.View Author posts

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